What is intellectual well-being? How to develop your skills for a happier life

Many may be familiar with mindfulness and its importance for mental health, but have you ever thought about intellectual well-being?

As nourishing and exercising our physical body is crucial to our health, getting your brain to the gym and constantly developing and nourishing your mind is equally important.

According to the Center for Wellness and Health Promotion at Harvard University, some of the potential benefits of intellectual wellness (or intellectual well-being) include:

  • Improved cognition.
  • Improved concentration and memory.
  • Increased clarity in thought.
  • The experience of a more stimulating life.
  • The development of personal values ​​and opinions.
  • Have a more open mind.

What is intellectual well-being?

Simply put, intellectual wellness is “the wellness of the mind,” Michael Ebinger, director of the Washington State University (WSU) Center for Innovation in Spokane, who spoke about the intellectual well-being for TEDx talksRecount Newsweek.

Randy McCoy, senior product executive for The Little Gym, an Arizona-based children’s physical enrichment and development center, said Newsweek: “Intellectual well-being is largely about the desire and ability to expand one’s knowledge and skills through lifelong learning, productive curiosity, creative thinking, and exploration.”

Ebinger has broken down intellectual well-being into the following fundamental elements:

  • Active lifelong learning, also known as constant or continuous learning.
  • Be open to new ideas.
  • Being involved in creative activities (such as writing, photography, community helping).
  • Read “all kinds of works”, from those written by contemporary writers to those who are long dead.
  • Keep up to date with current affairs.
  • Participate in recreation.
  • A connection with the arts.
A woman taking photos outdoors in a sunny setting. Intellectual well-being involves being involved in creative activities, such as photography.
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How to improve intellectual well-being

Improving your intellectual well-being involves “an act of doing or immersing yourself” in the elements mentioned above, Ebinger explained.

For example, “I am an active listener to many forms of classical music, and I also study the viola. Others might choose to paint, write poetry, learn new skills, take all kinds of sources of information to get to know the news well,” he said.

McCoy said it’s also important to understand the link between intellectual well-being and physical activity and exercise.

“The same areas of the brain responsible for cognitive thought tasks are activated and developed during physical activity and exercise,” meaning “when the body is in motion, the brain comes alive,” he said. declared.

The brain kicks into “high gear” and is “ready for action” during physical activity and stays in that high gear for a good amount of time even after the activity stops.

Illustration of the head and the interior of the brain.
An illustration of the inside of the brain. Intellectual well-being is about expanding your knowledge and skills through continuous learning, productive curiosity, creative thinking, and exploration.
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This effect on the brain is not temporary. “It has a lasting positive impact on brain function and neuroplasticity – the brain’s ability to change and adapt from experience,” McCoy added.

Studies have shown that regular, daily engagement in physical activity — especially in children and adolescents — will improve the development of areas of the brain that are responsible for “executive function,” he noted.

Executive function is important for a group of essential cognitive skills that allow us to “mentally multitask”, that is, to mentally work and remember multiple things at once while maintaining focus and filtering out thoughts. distractions and even making creative adjustments “on the fly”.

So, with all of that in mind, one way to definitely improve intellectual well-being is to maintain a physically active lifestyle to “help keep the brain engaged and happy,” McCoy said.

Intellectual well-being activities


According to Ebinger, one of the easiest activities to improve intellectual well-being is to read more literature. This may include reading classics or contemporary works and learning about current events. “Constant learning always happens to those who work to improve their intellectual well-being,” he said.

Ebinger also recommends combining different elements of intellectual well-being. For example, “I could be involved in lifelong learning by reading the works of Goethe [poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe] and listen to these words placed in a classical music composition.

“There can also be a creative side to it when I play a piece based on a poem or a prose work by Goethe or composers like [Johannes] Brahms,” he added.

A woman reading a book near an orange wall.
A woman reading a book on a bright orange wall background. Reading is one of the easiest ways to increase your intellectual well-being.
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Engage your imagination

Ebinger explained, “Engaging with your imagination is a sure way to connect with intellectual well-being and increase fluency with intellectual well-being.”

Go out and play

As mentioned, physical activity keeps the brain fit, McCoy said, because it will activate neurotransmitters in the brain and make it “wire and fire.”

Even just taking a walk with your kids can have a “dramatic impact” on their intellectual well-being, according to McCoy. He recommends making it part of your regular family routine.

“I hike in nature almost every day. I find that when my body is moving and my mind is relaxed, my mind becomes more creative and I come up with some of my best ideas,” he said. declared.

Two hikers facing the mountains.
Two hikers facing the mountains. The same areas of the brain responsible for cognitive thinking tasks are activated and developed during physical activity.
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Brain and body naps

Giving your brain and body a rest can actually boost your brain power, McCoy said. Taking five minutes a day to sit or lie down and practice some form of mindful meditation can “do wonders” for your body and brain.

For those who may not even have five minutes to spare or find it too long (especially children and teenagers), the same benefits can be achieved by taking as little as 30 seconds to “sit down, relax and breathe deeply”.

Even just five breaths can provide a nice brain and body nap. “Breathe in the positivity and happiness, breathe out the ‘clutter,'” he said.

A woman taking a nap on a sofa.
A woman sleeping on a couch. Taking five minutes sitting or lying down, such as taking a nap, can do wonders for your body and brain.
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Go out with your friends

According to McCoy, studies have shown that spending time with friends and loved ones on a regular basis will not only increase your level of happiness, but also your lifespan. “Socializing, talking, exchanging ideas is like healthy brain food,” he explained.

A group of friends chatting and laughing.
A group of friends chatting and laughing in a garden. Studies have shown that spending time with friends and loved ones on a regular basis can not only increase your level of happiness, but also your lifespan.
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